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Police arrest 97 for Olympics-related offenses including ticket resale
Last week the London Metropolitan Police Unit arrested almost 100 individuals in connection to offenses regarding the 2012 Summer Olympics.
British Home Secretary Theresa May reported at British security think tank the Royal United Services Institute that 97 arrests had been made by Operation Podium, a dedicated unit of London's Metropolitan Police. Created in June 2010, the unit's primary focus is to root out ticket companies and others planning to resell their Olympic tickets, as unauthorized resale of Olympics tickets is illegal in the U.K.
However, out of the 97 arrests, not all of them were for fraudulent ticket sales. In fact, an undisclosed number of men and women charged were allegedly involved in a fake hotel room rental scam or in attempts to set up unauthorized websites that were in connection to the Olympics.
Also among the 97 arrests were two individuals attempting to resell tickets at a soccer stadium, which as critics of Operation Podium have argued is not at all related to the summer games.
As a response to this criticism, a spokesperson for Scotland Yard acknowledged in a recent Huffington Post U.K. article that not all arrests have been directly related to the Games. The spokesperson added that these other arrests concerned threats similar to those posed by Olympics-related crimes, which could imply that the reach of Operation Podium has been broadened beyond simple commerce violations and beyond strictly Olympics-related crimes.
Graham Burns, Chairman of the UK's Association of Secondary Ticket Agents recently spoke with TicketNews to share his own concerns regarding the arrests. "What May and others fail to mention," said Burns, "is that most of those arrested have not actually been charged with any offence." Burns also questioned how many of these arrests were actually Olympics-related.
This week, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) announced that they are returning to local hoteliers approximately 20 percent of the rooms they had previously secured after failing to book the rooms. This allows these hotels with returned rooms a number of months before the start of the Games to work to fill these rooms.
Burns suspects that these two stories are actually related: "We do know that the Olympics Organising Committee, quick to cash in on the event, did a deal where they were the only organisation who had access to hotel rooms. Those arrested for selling hotel rooms may soon find themselves not charged for any offence as LOCOG has just announced that they have given back 120,000 rooms – because they can't sell them or rent them. As the weeks go by it is becoming more and more apparent that the Organisers don't know what they are doing."
LOCOG has not had an easy relationship with local hoteliers during the lead-up to the games. In April of 2011, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) complained that rooms they had provided to LOCOG at a fair price were being offered at a significant mark up in hospitality packages. At least one of these hotels ultimately backed out of the LOCOG deal in protest.
LOCOG countered these claims by stating that public hospitality packages were in a separate pool from the preferential-rate rooms provided and destined only for packages sold to national Olympic committees or to official sponsors of the Games.